Gaius Maecenas

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Gaius Cilnius Maecenas (13 April 70 BC – ? October 8 BC) was a confidant and political advisor to Octavian (who was to become the first Emperor of Rome as Caesar Augustus) as well as an important patron for the new generation of Augustan poets. During the reign of Augustus, Maecenas served as a quasi-culture minister to the Emperor.

His name has become a byword for a wealthy, generous and enlightened patron of the arts.

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Biography

Expressions in Propertius[1] seem to imply that Maecenas had taken some part in the campaigns of Mutina, Philippi and Perusia. He prided himself on his ancient Etruscan lineage, and claimed descent from the princely house of the Cilnii, who excited the jealousy of their townsmen by their preponderant wealth and influence at Arretium in the 4th century BC.[2] Horace makes reference to this in his address to Maecenas at the opening of his first books of Odes with the expression "atavis edite regibus" (descendant of kings). Tacitus[3] refers to him as "Cilnius Maecenas"; it is possible that "Cilnius" was his mother's nomen - or that Maecenas was in fact a cognomen.[4]

The Gaius Maecenas mentioned in Cicero[5] as an influential member of the equestrian order in 91 BC may have been his grandfather, or even his father. The testimony of Horace[6] and Maecenas's own literary tastes imply that he had profited by the highest education of his time.

His great wealth may have been in part hereditary, but he owed his position and influence to his close connection with the Emperor Augustus. He first appears in history in 40 BC, when he was employed by Octavian in arranging his marriage with Scribonia, and afterwards in assisting to negotiate the treaty of Brundisium and the reconciliation with Mark Antony. As a close friend and advisor he acted even as deputy for Augustus when he was abroad.

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